Massell: Buckhead, Atlanta should be unified

Sam Massell: Buckhead's Civic Leader

Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell gives his annual State of Buckhead Address to the Buckhead Business Association at its meeting last week at City Club of Buckhead.

Repeating his and the mayor’s message from the Buckhead Coalition’s annual luncheon last month, Sam Massell said he wants the community and the city of Atlanta as a whole to be unified, not separated.

“Atlanta’s success depends on a combined effort,” Massell, the coalition’s president, said, referring to last fall’s election that saw the city vote in a new mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, and new members to about half of its city council and board of education. That included a tight mayoral runoff election where Bottoms, a southwest Atlanta resident, defeated Buckhead resident Mary Norwood, who the coalition endorsed, by about 820 votes.

“It’s not just the mayor’s race that ended with a 50/50 split, but there were 10 other contests which ended with a 55/45 or lower split in the city council and board of education elections,” Massell said. “All Atlantans and all of us here assembled would agree that a city combined as one would be better for success. It’s for that reason that the coalition at its annual luncheon last month urged for unity with its theme of ‘Atlanta Together.’”

Massell spoke on that topic and more in his annual State of Buckhead Address last week at the Buckhead Business Association’s weekly breakfast meeting at City Club of Buckhead. He said Buckhead’s growth as a business and residential hub makes it a desirable place to live and work.

“Just in multifamily rentals alone, there are 17,000 units in various stages of announced development compared to about 12,000 in 2012, a 134 percent increase,” he said of the community’s apartment boom.

Buckhead remains the city’s cash cow in terms of tax revenue.

“There are 45 neighborhoods in Buckhead,” Massell said. “(They) may only total about 20 percent of Atlanta’s land area and population, but Buckhead pays into its treasury about 45 percent of its ad valorem taxes.”

Because of the community’s impact on the city, some leaders and residents have lobbied to have Buckhead, already part of the city of Atlanta, forming its own city. But Massell said he’s against that idea because if that happened, Atlanta would go bankrupt.

During a Q&A after his speech, association member Lauren Rock asked Massell, “Could you elaborate on plans for the Park Over Georgia 400?” The park is expected to cost at least $245 million and open as early as 2022.

Massell said the Buckhead Community Improvement District, which is leading the charge to build the park, was created by the coalition as a separate organization that generates $6.5 million in tax revenue annually. But he’s against the district using a lot of those funds to help pay for the park.

“Parks are wonderful things, but don’t take tax money from people in Buckhead and put it in a park,” he said. “Traffic is our number one issue. We get the calls and the complaints and we need to address that. The CID was responsible for doing the Peachtree Boulevard (streetscape) project, which was a wonderful thing. … They need to do more things like that. The park can be done with other money, but don’t spend the CID money.”

After his speech, the Neighbor asked Massell what other advice, if any, he could give residents. Fittingly, he talked about the city’s elected leaders.

“I think step up to the plate and let the city leadership, the mayor and council, know they are appreciated,” Massell said. “Send them a word of thanks when you see their favorable acts that benefit your community and your philosophy.”

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